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Should I snapshot Exchange 2010?

An admin wants to know if it's smart to snapshot Exchange Server 2010. Our expert weighs in.

Q: Is it safe to snapshot Exchange Server 2010?

A: If you do a little digging, you'll find that Microsoft clearly answers this question in its Exchange 2010 support policy. But to make a long story short, Microsoft does not support Exchange 2010 virtual snapshots.

Snapshots are usually based on how you use differencing disks. They preserve a hard disk (or a virtual hard disk) as it exists at a specific point in time. However, when you take a snapshot, the contents of the server's memory are not preserved.

If you take a snapshot of a mailbox server, transactions residing in memory that have not yet been committed to transaction logs will likely be lost unless the snapshot utility was Exchange-aware.

Similarly, snapshotting a hub transport server captures the server as it exists at a specific moment in time. The snapshot theoretically captures message queues. Therefore, if you restore the snapshot, messages that exist in the queues at the time that the snapshot was taken could theoretically be resent.

There really isn’t a reason to snapshot non-mailbox servers because all their configuration data is maintained in Active Directory, not on the server itself. You can use this configuration data to rebuild the server if necessary.

Mailbox servers also store their configuration data in Active Directory, but store their messaging data in a mailbox database. These servers are better protected with a traditional Exchange-aware backup application, not snapshots.

Brien Posey
is an eight-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation’s largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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